Contactless Greetings That Are (Almost) as Warm as a Hug
While nothing tops the feeling of a good, strong hug after time away from your friends or family members, we're all well aware of the fact that social distancing protocols now require leaving a little more space between yourself and your loved ones. But by paying attention to your body language, says expert Dr. Lillian Glass, you can guarantee that your heartfelt greeting bridges the gap.
"You want to have a genuine smile, which means your eyes have to crinkle," says Glass. "Your cheeks have to be raised and your eyes have to be squinting when you smile at someone. Also, an eyebrow raise can indicate that a person is happy to see you—saying, 'Oh! There you are!'" Making sure your body—down to your toes—faces the person you're greeting is another positive statement: "When your toes are in the direction of a person, that means you like them," says Glass.
Other common no-contact hellos include putting your hands together and making a small bow—a namaste or, in Thailand, a wai—which shows respect and draws attention toward your heart. Glass also suggests laying your hand on your heart or patting your heart in a gentle, beat-inspired motion. "The beating is more intense than just putting your hand on your heart," she says. "Normally you would go up to a person, you would hug them with a heart-to-heart hug, hold them, you'd kiss them, you'd get close to them. You can't do that anymore, so the new normal is you have to do it from a distance." Any motion that shows enthusiasm for the other person makes a verbal greeting more powerful: running in place, clapping your hands, giving a thumbs up, a vigorous wave. "The more vigorous the wave," says Glass, "the more you like the person."
If you're negotiating a new normal with loved ones you see regularly—whether in person or on your weekly family Zoom calls—another option is to agree on a sign language phrase that you can use repeatedly. Religious congregations might opt for a sign meaning "peace," grandparents and grandchildren might settle on the iconic "I love you" hand position, your sorority sisters might agree to incorporate signs that call back to your organization's Greek name—the specifics aren't as critical as the act of imbuing the sign with a shared sentiment. Dr. Brenda Schertz, a senior lecturer in the Cornell Linguistics department—who is also a member of the Deaf community—recommends a modified version of blowing a kiss. Developed by Nyle DiMarco, the action involves a person kissing the tips of their fingers on both hands at the same time and tossing the kiss toward their audience. "This is Nyle's trademark, and many Deaf people have adopted this," she says.